I got rights, where you from and coverage

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 
photoLou Brancaccio
photo

The big daddy amendment

Whenever you get pushed around, remember one of my favorite lines:

“Hey we got rights!”

Indeed, we do. And many of those come from our First Amendment. What better time to check in with that big daddy amendment than around the July Fourth holiday.

At least that’s Ken Paulson’s view. Mine too. Ken is the president of the First Amendment Center and president of the American Society of News Editors.

Full disclosure: Ken and I go back a long time. Early in our careers we worked in Fort Myers, Fla., where he was the courts reporter. Later we traveled around the country by bus on assignment for USA Today.

This week an email popped up from Ken to newspaper editors suggesting the Fourth would be a great time to remind folks about the First Amendment. So a 20-question quiz was created to test our knowledge.

Here’s one example:

How many freedoms are named in the First Amendment? Can you name them? Here’s the link:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-06-29-first-amendment-quiz_n.htm.

Where you from!

Speaking of the First Amendment, clearly it gives us a right to voice our opinion. It also gives others a right to object to our opinion.

Still, I’ve always found it a little unbecoming when people — who disagree with someone’s opinion — ask where you’re from.

Nothing’s illegal with that, of course, but what does where someone is from have to do with their opinion?

In a recent column I wrote about David Madore getting in and out of a political race, this exchange took place between two commenters on our website:

“Lou are you from the East Coast?”

“Worse, he’s from Chicago.”

I mean if someone is from the East Coast or the Midwest, are we a lesser person than someone born in Clark County? Is our opinion not worth considering? Or worse, should we keep our mouths shut?

My 14 years here don’t qualify me as a native but I suspect there are a whole bunch of folks here who are like me. We came here because of opportunities and we love it here.

As we get ready to celebrate our country’s birth, let’s also celebrate the great diversity we have. And that includes where we’re from.

Why the big coverage?

A reader this week used her First Amendment right to disagree with me. And the reader came right to the point.

“Are you serious?”

The reader was complaining about the coverage we gave to three kids who are accused of going about killing dozens of cats. We ran photos — relatively large — of them on our Clark County cover.

“I mean come on, this is full-front-page news?”

The reader went on to say we needed to give equal treatment to all the other — more serious — crime that was going on in Clark County.

I thanked her for the email and clarified a few things:

“On the day we had the cat story on our local cover (not the front page), we had a front-page story on the amount of violence that has hit the county.”

I also took the opportunity to explain there’s more to deciding which stories go where than just importance.

“News is also sometimes judged by its uniqueness. The fact that (these) three (allegedly) killed this many cats squarely lands this story in the unique category.

“Sad, yes. Unfortunate, yes. Unique … yes.”

And now it’s time to …

OK, now let’s have a Fourth party!

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.